Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A contemporary comment on Crown's shameful conduct

[What follows is an article by me that was published on TheLockerbieTrial.com website on this date in 2000:]

It will have been apparent to anyone who has followed even cursorily the cross-examination of the Libyan defector and long-term CIA asset, Abdul Majid Giaka, by defence counsel William Taylor QC and Richard Keen QC on 26, 27 and 28 September, that much of the devastating effectiveness of their questioning derived from their ability to refer the witness to the cables in which his CIA handlers communicated to headquarters the information that Giaka had provided to them in the course of their secret meetings.

Discrepancies between Giaka's evidence-in-chief to Advocate Depute Alistair Campbell QC and the contents of these contemporaneous cables enabled the defence to mount a formidable challenge to the truthfulness and accuracy, or credibility and reliability, of Giaka's testimony.  Had the information contained in these cables not been available to them, the task of attempting to demonstrate to the Court that Giaka was an incredible or unreliable witness would have been immensely more difficult and perhaps impossible.

It is in this context that the submissions of the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, on 22 August 2000, when he was seeking to persuade the Court to deny the defence access to those cables in their unredacted or uncensored form, must be viewed.  On that occasion the Lord Advocate said that the members of the prosecution team who were given access to the uncensored CIA cables on 1 June 2000 (Advocate Depute Alan Turnbull QC and procurator fiscal Norman McFadyen) were fully aware of the obligation incumbent upon them as prosecutors to make available to the defence teams material relevant to the defence of the accused and, to that end, considered the contents of those cables with certain considerations in mind. 

Mr Boyd said: "First of all, they considered whether or not there was any information behind the redactions which would undermine the Crown case in any way.  Secondly, they considered whether there was anything which would appear to reflect on the credibility of Mr Majid.  They also considered whether there was anything which might bear upon the special defences which had been lodged and intimated in this case.  On all of these matters, the learned Advocate Depute reached the conclusion that there was nothing within the cables which bore on the defence case, either by undermining the Crown case or by advancing a positive case which was being made on may be made, having regard to the special defence... I emphasise that the redactions have been made on the basis of what is in the interests of the security of a friendly power... Crown counsel was satisfied that there was nothing within the documents which bore upon the defence case in any way."

Lord Coulsfield then intervened:   "Does that include, Lord Advocate ... that Crown counsel, having considered the documents, can say to the Court that there is nothing concealed which could possibly bear on the credibility of this witness?"

The Lord Advocate replied:  "Well, I'm just checking with the counsel who made that.  In the sense in which My Lord put it to me at the start, that there may be material which relates to a completely different matter, then that cannot be said...  But, in the sense, My Lord, that there is nothing within the -- -- there is nothing within these documents which relates to Lockerbie or the bombing of Pan Am 103 which could in any way impinge on the credibility of Mr Majid on these matters."

In the light of the use actually, and entirely properly, made by the defence of material from those CIA cables in attacking, in the course of cross-examination, the credibility and reliability of Giaka’s evidence on matters relevant to the responsibility of the two accused men for the bombing of Pan Am 103, it may be that the Lord Advocate will (or at least should) feel that he owes an explanation of the statements made by him on 22 August 2000 which are quoted above.

[RB: Explanation came there none, either then or at any later time. This disgraceful Crown conduct forms the basis of one of Justice for Megrahi’s allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial that are currently under investigation by Police Scotland.]


  1. Note that Boyd explained that the redactions (censored sections blacked out) "have been made on the basis of what is in the interests of the security of a friendly power."

    That power was and remains America. And when the sections were revealed it became clear that they had nothing whatever to do with "the security of a friendly power". They were redacted simply to hide embarrassing facts that would weaken the prosecution case.

    The history of the Lockerbie trial and appeals is littered with UK public immunity certificates signed by secretaries of state, and American objections to the revealing of FBI and NSA reports that weaken the prosecution case. Those that have - with great difficulty - finally emerged for public scrutiny, have nothing to do with American and British security.

    The latest appalling example of such was revealed by Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The head of STRATFOR, a security organisation feeding a wide range of US defence organisations including the Pentagon, proposed the illegal kidnap and rendition of the dying Al-Megrahi. One of STRATFOR's employees actually threatened to track down Al-Megrahi and "whack him myself".

    Assange is said by the Americans to be a traitor. The truth always hurts most those who want the truth to be hidden.

  2. Perhaps this might be a good moment to remind readers what one of Giaka's key minders thought of him. FBI Special Agent Phillip B J Reid was respopnsible for helping to arrange Giak's flight from Libya on to a US ship and thence to Washington (via an agreeable rural hotel in Sussex). In his book publishesd in 2013 Reid says: "After the debriefing was completed, my job was to help Puzzle Piece to adjust to life in the United States. That wasn't easy – he was on an emotional roller coaster. But as I learned more about him, I respected him as a devout Muslim and a devoted husband and soon-to-be father. It was clear that he was honest, almost to a fault." Readers should be forgiven if they feel a spot of cognitive dissonance on comparing that quote with the content of the CIA cables and Giaka's own performance at Zeist, plus what former colleagues said about him being a thief, a liar a molester of women, a drinker etc etc. But if the FBI says it, it must be true. (Source Phillip B J Reid. Three Sisters Ponds: My Journey from Street Cop to FBI Special Agent from Baltimore to Lockerbie, Pakistan and Beyond. Published June 2013.

  3. I wasn't aware of that book. Perhaps I should read it? I believe Phillip Reid was the man who gave the photos of Megrahi to Harry Bell, with the suggestion that he might see if he could find anything linking Megrahi to Lockerbie. Bell put one of the photos in a photospread to show to Gauci and the rest is history.

    This is how Megrahi was originally implicated. Not by normal detective work identifying a link with the crime, but because the FBI presented him as a possible suspect. I'd quite like to know what led the FBI to put his name forward, and also where they got the two photos of Megrahi they gave to Bell.

    I don't think Bell was supposed to get Megrahi identified as the clothes purchaser. I think Reid knew he'd been at the airport under the Abdusamad alias, but wanted the Scottish police to find that out for themselves. Which they never really did, having to be prompted on that one as well, much later.

  4. Totaly agree with with your observations Robert. What puzzles me is how did clothes purchased in Malta get to be wrapped round a bomb that was put on the plane at Heathrow. My bet is that the clothes purshaser was actually Giaka (Ebol said that the original identi sketches given by Gaucci to the police in malta looked more like Giake with his high forehead. So if Giaka bought the clothes and gave them to his CIA handler this would explain why Muller FBI wanted the CIA kept out of the investigation. We can guess the rest and why they are so desperate to conceal the truth